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26 Aug 2016
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A Silent Killer:

According to the New York City Fire Department, approximately 500 Americans die every year from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide, a naturally occurring gas, produces fumes that are undetectable by human senses, but can be deadly in enclosed spaces.

Local Law 7 mandates that residential buildings in New York City install CO detectors in every dwelling unit. Carbon monoxide detectors are a necessary part of every household, as the majority of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents occur in enclosed settings. Many household items produce carbon monoxide fumes at normal levels, but these same items, if left damaged or improperly installed, can raise carbon monoxide levels and lead to a hazardous, or even deadly,     situation.  New Yorkers may also be exposed to a higher level of carbon monoxide than residents living in other areas of the U.S since exhaust from cars and trucks produces carbon monoxide.

Regardless of where you live, the risk of CO poisoning from overexposure is greatest during the winter months due to the increased use of heating equipment. The New York State Department of Health advises that carbon monoxide poisoning should be suspected if more than one member of the family is sick and if they feel better after being away from home for a period of time.

Installing and maintaining a carbon monoxide detector in your home and building communal spaces is really the only way to fully protect yourself and neighbors.  Test the alarm once a month, and change the battery every year.

In co-ops and condos, Local Law 7 holds building or unit owners responsible for the installation and upkeep of CO detectors. The Department of Buildings website also cites the relevancy of the individual building’s proprietary lease, bylaws, or condominium declaration in determining the party ultimately responsible for providing detectors. Similarly, the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) states that the co-op/condo board and shareholders are responsible for determining who oversees the installation.  Not sure who in your building to ask about CO detectors?  You can always talk to your managing agent who, at a minimum, should be aware of installation and maintenance of CO detectors for your building.
 
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26 Aug 2016
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It’s a Fake:

Counterfeit consumer goods are goods, often of inferior quality, made or sold under another’s brand name without the brand owner’s authorization. Sellers of such goods may infringe on either the trade mark, patent or copyright of the brand owner by passing off its goods as made by the brand owner.  From handbags to auto parts, authorities continue to struggle in attempts to control the ever increasing counterfeit black market.  According to Consumer Reports, “not only do fakes cost U.S. businesses as much as $250 billion in lost trade annually, but many are also downright dangerous.”

Reports of counterfeit airbags not deploying, or even exploding cause great alarm to consumers and automakers alike.  We don’t often think about the hidden costs of buying fake, but fakes can be life threatening to consumers and businesses.  In a recent discovery, doctors were unknowingly using counterfeit botox on patients.  The bottles looked nearly identical to the genuine product, and without knowing the purity or exactly what the bottle contained those doctors could have risked their patient’s health along with their business.

Not all cases of counterfeit involve dark alleys and shady characters.  Recently Estee Lauder accused Target of trademark counterfeiting and infringement of the popular brand “MAC.”  Estee Lauder claimed more than $600,000 in damages were caused due to counterfeit sales.  Corporate trust was damaged, and the extent may yet be known.  Imitation is not always flattering, especially when your brand is at stake.

 

 

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19 Aug 2016
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A Fresh Breath:

We give little thought to it, but indoor air quality is just as important as the air temperature.  A building’s HVAC system can have a direct impact on residents’ health.  It is important in any building where an HVAC system operates that the system be well-balanced. An unbalanced system can create indoor air quality problems. Individual occupants should be instructed not to block off the supply or return vents. Blocking off vents in one room will force the additional air out through other vents in the system, causing an imbalance in the system, and some locations of the building will not receive sufficient fresh air.

Maintaining the network of ducts is crucial to ensure that the building’s HVAC units don’t become the source of potential indoor air quality problems. This means regular visual inspections of the filters, heat exchange coils, drip pans and variable air volume control boxes, and regular cleaning and sanitizing of the associated duct work.  DIY kits are readily available to test your building’s indoor air quality.

The duct work should be vacuumed with High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuums every couple of years and sanitized with a biocide if necessary. For areas where the dust or debris has adhered to the duct surfaces, a more aggressive means may be required to remove the deposits, such as power brushes or air knives.

Regular monitoring for indoor air contaminants such as VOCs, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide should be implemented to ensure that contaminants do not exceed recommended levels. The board should ensure that all units are within the proposed guidelines and that the HVAC system bringing in the fresh air does not contribute any hazards to the indoor air, which can result in “sick building syndrome.”
 
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12 Aug 2016
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Browning Out:

As the summer heats up and the mercury rises, our homes, offices, and buildings rely more and more on power-hungry air conditioners.  While we would like to believe that the days of widespread brownouts are gone, the reality of crippling energy dependency should not be overlooked.  That said, energy production has advanced dramatically in recent years, offering metropolitan area co-ops and condos some options to alleviate energy usage concerns.

Many cooperatives have strategized and mitigated their energy needs through implementing co-generation technologies, through which many co-ops and condos are producing themselves some of the energy required for their building to function.  For these buildings, they only rely on their energy supplier (Con Edison for most) for the balance of what they cannot produce in house.  Some buildings are able to generate so much energy that they can sell the surplus back to their energy supplier and earn a profit.

Co-generation uses natural gas-fueled energy to create electricity and is also referred to as combined heat and power (“CHP”), as it delivers both electricity and hot water.  Environmental authorities find CHP technology to be efficient and clean.  Further, co-generation units are smaller, allowing them to recapture heat, which can be used to heat water and provide heat to buildings.  They result in lower energy bills and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  What does your building need in order to install a CHP system?  Three things:  a natural gas supply, a chimney or other exhaust source, and the unit itself.

The biggest drawback to CHP systems is the large upfront cost, which poses a challenge for cash-strapped buildings.  However, for buildings that can afford the cost, they will see their investment repaid in approximately 3 years, after which they will see significant savings in energy costs.
 
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05 Aug 2016
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Slamming the Door on Airbnb:

Hotel rooms in New York City are costly, and many New Yorkers don’t have the space to accommodate visiting friends and family, which gave rise to the popularity of Airbnb and other home sharing sites.  However, since 2010, it has been illegal for anyone to rent out their apartment for fewer than 30 days.  As we have previously discussed, violations of this law, New York’s “Multiple Dwellings Law” (“MDL”) run from $1,000 to $5,000 for a first offense.

While the MDL has had some success in stamping out these illegal short-term sublets and rentals, it is still a far cry from eradicating these short term rentals entirely.  Thanks to legislation passed by the New York State Legislature in June, it is now illegal to advertise your apartment on Airbnb or other home sharing sites for stays of less than 30 days.  Those found guilty of violating the law face escalating fines of up to $7,500.

Governor Cuomo has yet to sign the bill, and in the interim, the hotel industry and Airbnb both continue to lobby for their positions.  At the beginning of July, Airbnb announced that it had removed more than 2,233 New York City listings in an effort to weed out hosts who were in violation of Airbnb’s policies.  Regulators and the hotel industry have continued to claim that Airbnb is resulting in an increasing number of homes functioning as illegal hotels in violation of zoning laws, safety codes and other requirements. As Airbnb has noted, that if the bill were enacted into law, New York would be the first jurisdiction in the world to ban advertising short-term rentals on home-sharing sites.
 
 
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